The next Infosys | Trendsetter in data sciences—Mu Sigma
What Mu Sigma has to offer gives firms the power to use data from people, platforms and processes to enable them make the right decisions
Bangalore: In 2005, when terms such as big data and data analytics had not yet become buzzwords in information technology, Dhiraj Rajaram sold his house near Chicago and used the proceeds to start a company called Mu Sigma Inc. to do something the world knew very little about. It wanted to offer businesses a way of making real-time decisions based on analysis of massive collections of data.
Nine years later, Rajaram, a graduate of the College of Engineering, Guindy, in Chennai, with a Master’s degree in science from Wayne State University and an MBA from the University of Chicago in the US, has built Mu Sigma into a brand with a distinct global niche in data sciences and analytics.
Rajaram, 38, who worked as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. and PricewaterhouseCoopers before founding Mu Sigma, became an entrepreneur to tap the value analytical decision making could bring to traditional sales and marketing techniques.
“Data was doubling and companies were struggling to make decisions on a day-to-day basis. They needed to learn from data rather than continue making gut-based decisions,” said Deepinder Dhingra, head of strategy and planning, Mu Sigma.
The next thing he knew, Rajaram sold his house for around $400,000 and used it as seed funding for the venture and packed his bags to come to India.
Mu Sigma, which is today based in Chicago, Illinois, with its main delivery centre in Bangalore, signed up its first customer—Microsoft Corp.—in June 2005.
Today, Mu Sigma counts more than 140 clients from among Fortune 500 companies that cut across sectors.
They include retailers, drug makers, media, telecom and financial services companies that use the solutions provided by Mu Sigma across functions, including marketing, and risk and supply-chain management.
What Mu Sigma has to offer gives companies the power to use data from a combination of people, platforms and processes to enable them to make the right decisions in running a business. Dhingra described this hybrid model of data analytics as “the Ironman model”, in which firms are being equipped with the tools to make decisions. The model is named after a comic book superhero whose alter ego is an American billionaire named Tony Stark.
When it started, the biggest challenge the company faced was the lack of trained talent.
“The problem was not talent acquisition but talent creation. We wanted to give the Ironman suit to many more and create many more Tony Starks. That is why we built Mu Sigma University,” said Dhingra.
Mu Sigma hires people with strong academic backgrounds from India and the US, and puts them through a three-month training programme called Mu Sigma University that teaches the basics of consulting, applied math, data modelling, statistics and economics.
“The training we provide has become a verb these days. One of our clients from abroad sent a bunch of employees to Bangalore and said, ‘We have to Mu this group’,” said Rajaram, whose company currently counts more than 3,000 employees.
“My professor at IIT Madras told me about Mu Sigma. It has been mind-boggling work for six years now. When I joined, I knew everyone’s name; now I almost don’t know anyone,” said Anuj Krishna, an associate director who was one of the first 50 employees of the company.
Investors sprang at the opportunity that Mu Sigma created. The company raised about $200 million in multiple rounds of funding over the last five years.
The leading investors in these rounds were Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic. FTV Capital was another investor. “We think Mu Sigma is a category defining company for data sciences. We funded them because we saw an opportunity for Mu Sigma to be a global market leader and a key catalyst for the adoption of data analytics in large enterprises,” said Shailendra J. Singh, managing director, Sequoia Capital. “The fact that over 100 large global enterprises have chosen Mu Sigma to be their partner in analytics is validation of our early conviction in their capabilities.”
Mu Sigma today has customers spanning the world map, “in almost every continent, except the Arctic and the Antarctic”, said Rajaram. “We’ve never been afraid to approach big customers, like small companies usually do. We always had a vision to be a global company and never saw ourselves as a small company.”
Over the last nine years, the company has clocked close to 6-8% growth every month. Mu Sigma’s organic revenue crossed $100 million in less than seven years, something that companies such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd and Infosys Ltd took 10 years to reach.
About the future, Rajaram is very clear what he wants.
“Every Fortune 500 company needs to have a little Mu Sigma inside it,” he said.
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